The air defence regiment near the Russian city of Voronezh, 500 kilometres south of Moscow, has recently been boosted with a new upgraded version of the legendary S-300 air defence system, called the S-300MP2 Favorit (NATO reporting name SA-20b Gargoyle b), further strengthening the so-called area denial zone over the country, where no aircraft of a potential enemy can fly safely.
200 Kilometre No-Fly Zone
Voronezh’s air defence regiment is one of most essential for the country's security as it covers Moscow from the south, as well as local military bases along with a nuclear plant, and therefore has to be equipped with one of the most advanced pieces of weaponry.
While the S-300MP2 still falls short of the more modern S-400s, it is nonetheless a major upgrade compared to its predecessor, the MP1. Its effective range to take down non-ballistic targets has nearly doubled to 200 kilometres, while it can down ballistic missiles within a 40-kilometre range.
Speed also matters in this field of operation. Head of the air defence regiment Evgeny Dunaev stressed that not only is the S-300MP2 good at detecting, tracking, and taking down an enemy from afar, but it's also highly mobile.
"[S-300MP2s] are highly manoeuvrable, which allows us to change our deployment locations quickly. The overall deployment time does not exceed five minutes, when they are ready to fire. These air defence systems can work on any terrain, in any weather and at any time of day", Dunaev explained.
The modernised S-300 is not just a hard-hitting, but also a fast-hitting weapon. It only takes around 60-90 seconds from the moment that an enemy aircraft or missile has been spotted to take it down from its maximum distance. The missile flies at a speed of 2,100 metres per second and can cover a 200-kilometre range in around 1.5 minutes.
It comes as no surprise that with such characteristics, the S-300 air defence systems have shown impressive results in Syria even against sophisticated attacks. They have namely helped defend the Hmeymim airbase, which was attacked by drone swarms controlled by local militants and terrorist groups in June and July 2019.
Despite major upgrades to its characteristics, tracking algorithms, and software, the S-300MP2’s sophisticated mechanisms are now actually easier to handle for soldiers when compared to the MP1. Previously, a majority of operations had to be performed manually, while now most of them are done automatically.
The S-300 regiment spots its target on the radar or receives coordinates from a command centre linked to an array of such radars, starts tracking the airspace violator, assigns missiles to it, and launches. A man-in-the-loop only appears during this process occasionally, when soldiers need to make the final decision, for example whether to fire or not on a selected target. The rest the new S-300 does itself.
S-300MP2 personnel also analyse post-engagement data to conclude whether a target was successfully shot down. This can be determined by spotting identifying debris on radar.